On Monday, China’s top legislature passed a revised law that bans for-profit private primary schools and junior high schools from operating in the country.
The revised law was one of many adopted at the close of the latest rubber-stamping session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee in Beijing. Zhu Zhiwen, Vice Minister of Education, told reporters that in China compulsory education (grades one through nine) is free and must only be provided by the government.
“Profit-led private schools are unsuitable for the free education program,” Zhu said.
Officials say that the law is meant to better control the notoriously loosely-regulated private school industry in China, where sky-high tuitions and questionable standards are the norm. The government sees these type of schools as a source of basic education inequality.
Considering that there are about 162,700 private schools registered around the country with more than 45.7 million students, this new regulation would certainly seem like a big deal.
Yet, in a surprising twist, exactly none of those private primary or junior high schools are registered as for-profit, China Daily reports.
Instead, Zhu explained that the new law will prevent those schools from becoming profit-led, stressing that private schools are still allowed to operate; however, they must comply with the law, including allowing the government to set tuition and control the curriculum.
In a contrasting report last week in anticipation of the revised law, Caixin reported that the law could affect 10,7000 schools with 12 million students, while also dealing “a heavy blow to the country’s booming private-education sector.”
That sector is already under attack from officials who want to purge the foreign influence that has seeped into the system, forcing schools to do away with international curricula and adopt state-sanctioned syllabi. Last week, the Shanghai government told 21 of the city’s international and bilingual schools to begin offering China-specific subjects, a development that has some parents worried.
[Images via CCTV News]